Rosemary essential oil, extracted from the evergreen shrub Rosmarinus officinalis, is renowned for its aromatic and medicinal properties. While commonly known as a food seasoning, this versatile oil offers a plethora of health benefits. From supporting brain function to stimulating hair growth, rosemary essential oil has captivated the attention of researchers worldwide (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source). In this article, we explore the magical properties and potential uses of rosemary essential oil.
1. Enhances Brain Function
Rosemary has a long history of being associated with memory enhancement. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that rosemary strengthened memory (5). Recent studies indicate that inhaling rosemary oil can prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a crucial brain chemical responsible for cognition, concentration, and memory (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source). Research conducted on young adults showed that diffusing rosemary oil in a room improved their speed and accuracy in solving math questions. Moreover, rosemary compounds were detected in their blood, confirming that inhalation alone can facilitate absorption into the body (6Trusted Source). Nursing students who breathed rosemary oil during exams reported increased concentration and improved information recall compared to lavender oil or no essential oil at all (8Trusted Source). Additionally, preliminary research suggests that inhaling rosemary and other essential oils may enhance brain function in older adults with dementia, including those with Alzheimer’s disease (9Trusted Source).
2. Promotes Hair Growth
Androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male pattern baldness, affects both men and women and is a prevalent type of hair loss (10). Rosemary oil can combat androgenetic alopecia by inhibiting the testosterone byproduct responsible for attacking hair follicles (11Trusted Source). In a study, men with androgenetic alopecia who massaged diluted rosemary oil into their scalps twice daily for six months experienced similar hair thickness improvement as those using the popular hair regrowth remedy, minoxidil (Rogaine). Moreover, participants using rosemary oil reported less scalp itching compared to minoxidil users, suggesting its potential for better tolerance (12Trusted Source). Furthermore, rosemary oil shows promise in addressing patchy hair loss, known as alopecia areata, with a study revealing a significant improvement in hair loss among individuals who applied a rosemary essential oil blend to their scalps daily for seven months (14Trusted Source).
3. Alleviates Pain
Rosemary oil has long been utilized in folk medicine for its mild analgesic properties (15Trusted Source). Stroke survivors with shoulder pain experienced a 30% reduction in pain after receiving acupressure combined with a rosemary oil blend for two weeks. In comparison, those who received only acupressure reported a 15% reduction in pain (16Trusted Source). Animal studies suggest that rosemary oil might be more effective for pain relief than common over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen (15Trusted Source).
4. Acts as a Natural Bug Repellent
For those seeking natural alternatives to chemical products, rosemary oil can effectively repel harmful insects that bite or infest gardens. When a rosemary oil-based pesticide called EcoTrol was sprayed on greenhouse tomato plants, it significantly reduced the population of two-spotted spider mites without causing harm to the plants (17Trusted Source). Rosemary oil also exhibits repellent properties against blood-sucking insects such as Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are responsible for spreading the Zika virus. In fact, a 12.5% dilution of rosemary oil repelled 100% of mosquitoes for 90 minutes (18Trusted Source, 19). Furthermore, a spray containing 10% rosemary oil was as effective as the chemical insecticide bifenthrin in controlling black-legged ticks, carriers of Lyme disease, in tick-infested areas (20Trusted Source).
5. Reduces Stress
Rosemary oil can provide relief from stress caused by various factors, including exam-related anxiety. Nursing students who inhaled rosemary oil from an inhaler before and during exams experienced a decrease in pulse rate, indicating reduced stress levels compared to those who did not use rosemary oil (8Trusted Source). In another study, individuals who sniffed rosemary oil for five minutes exhibited 23% lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva compared to those exposed to a non-aromatic compound (22Trusted Source).
6. Improves Circulation
Poor circulation, often evident in cold fingers and toes, can be alleviated with rosemary oil. A study conducted on a woman with Raynaud’s disease, a condition that impairs circulation, revealed that massaging her hands with a rosemary oil blend increased blood flow and improved warmth compared to a neutral oil (24Trusted Source). Research suggests that rosemary oil may expand blood vessels, facilitating better circulation and providing relief to individuals with conditions like Raynaud’s disease (25Trusted Source).
7. Boosts Mental Alertness
Rosemary oil has long been employed in folk medicine to alleviate mental strain and combat fatigue (26). Studies on healthy adults revealed that inhaling rosemary oil increased feelings of mental refreshment by approximately 30% and reduced drowsiness by about 25% compared to inhaling a placebo oil (1Trusted Source). These improvements in alertness corresponded with changes in brain waves, increased heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure (1Trusted Source). Topical application of diluted rosemary oil also demonstrated similar effects, leading to increased attentiveness, alertness, energy, and cheerfulness (26).
8. Reduces Joint Inflammation
Preliminary evidence suggests that rosemary oil may help reduce tissue inflammation, leading to a decrease in swelling, pain, and stiffness (4Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source). It appears to achieve this by inhibiting the migration of white blood cells to injured tissues, which release inflammatory chemicals (28Trusted Source). A study involving individuals with rheumatoid arthritis revealed that regular knee massages with a rosemary oil blend resulted in a 50% reduction in inflammatory knee pain within two weeks, compared to a 12% reduction in those not using the oil (29Trusted Source).
9–13. Other Potential Uses
While human studies are limited, researchers are investigating several other potential uses of rosemary oil. It exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which may be beneficial in fighting cancer cells (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source). Animal studies suggest that rosemary oil may stimulate bile release, aiding in fat digestion and supporting liver and digestive health (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source). Moreover, rosemary oil has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria responsible for food poisoning when used in precise, small amounts (36, 37, 38Trusted Source). It may also enhance the effectiveness of certain antibiotics and weaken the cell walls of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (3Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source). Further research is required to validate these potential uses.
14. Convenient Usage
Rosemary oil can be used through inhalation or topical application. Due to its high concentration, only a few drops should be used at a time. The small plastic droppers included with the oil bottles facilitate precise dispensing.
Inhalation: The simplest way to inhale rosemary oil is to open the bottle and take a deep breath. Alternatively, a few drops can be placed on a cloth or tissue and held near the face. Aromatherapy diffusers can also be used to disperse the oil into the surrounding air. It is important to exercise caution when using diffusers around babies and young children to monitor their inhalation.
Topical Use: Rosemary oil and other essential oils are readily absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. It is recommended to dilute essential oils with a neutral carrier oil, such as jojoba oil, to prevent skin irritation and ensure optimal absorption (43Trusted Source). The following guidelines provide a general outline for diluting oils for topical use:
- Babies: Use a 0.3% dilution, equivalent to 1 drop of essential oil per 1 tablespoon of carrier oil.
- Children: Use a 1.0% dilution, equivalent to 1 drop of essential oil per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil.
- Adults: Use a 2.0–4.0% dilution, equivalent to 3–6 drops of essential oil per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil.
After dilution, apply the oil to the targeted area, such as the soles of the feet or a sore muscle, and gently massage it into the skin to promote blood flow and enhance absorption (29Trusted Source). Avoid applying rosemary oil to damaged skin or sensitive areas, such as the eyes. Pregnant women, individuals with epilepsy, and those with high blood pressure should generally avoid using rosemary oil, as it may exacerbate these conditions (44Trusted Source, 45, 46).
Rosemary essential oil offers a wide range of potential benefits, supported by both traditional knowledge and emerging scientific research. From its positive impact on brain function and hair growth to its ability to alleviate pain, repel insects, and reduce stress, rosemary oil has earned its place as a valuable natural remedy. Whether inhaled or applied topically, the concentrated nature of the oil necessitates cautious and responsible use. While further human studies are needed to confirm its effects, rosemary essential oil continues to captivate researchers and individuals seeking natural alternatives for their well-being.